Hansen hits home run with all-star service dog
Next time you’re at a Colorado Rockies home game, keep your eyes open for a smiling young man accompanied by a happy yellow Labrador in a Freedom Service Dogs vest. That’ll be Hansen and Brogue, the most popular ushers at Coors Field—and one of FSD’s excellent client-dog teams.
Now age 28, Hansen started life the hard way: He suffered a stroke in his mother’s womb that wiped out parts of his brain’s speech center and frontal lobe. The stroke left him with a nonfunctional right hand, a limp in his right leg, and poor peripheral vision in his right eye. The damage to his left brain also makes it difficult for Hansen to initiate actions, including creating written or verbal language, getting out of bed in the morning, and transitioning to a new task or activity.
Despite these challenges—and with the support and help of his mother—Hansen grew up to be a smart, funny, and active young man who loves to snowboard and is an avid Rockies fan. When Hansen learned about Freedom Service Dogs, he began to envision a life where he might not be as dependent on his mother for assistance and even dreamed of getting a job at Coors Field—something he had never thought possible due to his disabilities.
After applying for a Freedom Service Dog—and joking during his interview that a “chick-magnet dog would be a plus”—Hansen was matched in 2014 with Brogue, a 3-year-old Lab who came to FSD from one of our longtime partners, the Colorado Correctional Industries’ Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program. During their two-week placement class, Hansen and Brogue bonded easily, and Brogue learned the specific tasks needed to assist Hansen in his daily life.
Since that time, Brogue has become a constant companion and helper to Hansen in the Five Points apartment they share—and in the world at large. Brogue opens their apartment door when Hansen returns from picking up laundry down the hall, helps pull off his jacket, retrieves his hand brace and other items, carries his lunch, and alerts Hansen when people are on his right side beyond his line of vision.
Brogue has another very important task, which Hansen describes as “getting me going when I am stuck.” He barks at Hansen in the morning when it’s time to wake up, ensuring that Hansen gets out of bed to feed Brogue, let him outside, and start his own day.
Thanks to the increased confidence he feels with Brogue by his side, in 2015 Hansen applied for his dream job. “Brogue helped me get my job as an usher at Coors Field,” he says with pride. The popular duo works in the suites and Club Level at approximately 75 games each season, showing fans to their seats, directing them to food vendors and restrooms, and checking post-game for items that have been left behind. “We also make sure people behave after 10 beers,” laughs Hansen, adding that Brogue is a big help in this effort due to his “calming influence.”
By nature on the quiet side, Hansen says Brogue helps him break the ice with others and is an instant conversation starter. “Brogue is a star at work,” says Hansen. “I have hundreds of co-workers come up to say hi to him, not to mention Rockies fans, so I end up talking to lots of people. Brogue even got nominated for Employee of the Month!”
This spring, Hansen and Brogue landed a second job as ushers at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, where they have enjoyed attending symphony and ballet performances together in the past. “I’m the first employee to have a service dog at the DCPA,” says Hansen.
When they’re not working at Denver’s premier sports and cultural venues, Hansen and Brogue can be found walking for miles on the Cherry Creek Trail or flying cross-country to visit family in New Hampshire.
Says Hansen, “Brogue has gotten me to try new things I never would have thought of. He gets me out of my apartment and keeps me active. He has expanded my world.”